India leads the world in the progress towards the target of polio eradication in 2008 - the most dangerous type 1 poliovirus - and appears closest to its goal, said Dr Bruce Aylward, Director, Global Polio Eradication Initiative at the WHO.
"Just 12 months after the WHO Director General Dr Margaret Chan launched the intensified polio eradication effort, India is closest of the last four polio endemic countries to eradication of Type 1 (P1) with the lowest number of cases in the key reservoir areas," Dr Aylward said during discussions with the Health Ministry officials here.
The Global polio programme chief reaffirmed that finishing P1 would require responding to any new case with immediate and large-scale case response vaccination campaigns covering over two million children each time. This should be in addition to the intensive efforts in endemic areas and as part of the aggressive strategy.
"In 2008, there are only 12 cases of P1 in all of Asia, four each in India, Pakistan and Afghanistan, in contrast to over a 100 cases in Nigeria. Among Asian countries India is clearly the closest to stopping P1 as key areas of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar have made tremendous progress in reducing P1 cases. There is no P1 case in UP this year and only one in Bihar. In contrast P1 transmission continues in reservoir areas of Pakistan's Sindh province and Afghanistan's southern region," Dr Aylward said.
The chief of the global programme highlighted the progress towards the other major target of the global eradication effort to control the large outbreak caused by P3 in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
In both states P3 cases have recently plummeted setting the stage for eradicating all P3 polio soon after P1. The only other type of polio, Type 2 (P2) was eradicated in 1999.Dr Aylward said India can expect fewer polio cases in 2008 as compared with the last two years with P1 nearing interruption and P3 outbreak curtailed. India is in the crucial final stages of polio eradication and is getting closer to the national goal. India has made unprecedented progress against P1 in the last one year. The poliovirus, which caused periodic outbreaks and 95 per cent polio cases till 2006, has been curtailed in West Uttar Pradesh, the epicenter of all polio outbreaks.
The core endemic areas of West UP - Moradabad, Bareilly, Badaun and Aligarh sub-divisions - have not had a single case of P1 for over a year and a half, the first time in history.
"The hard, dedicated work of health workers, vaccinators and volunteers is helping India get closer and closer to its goal of stopping polio forever," said Morten Giersing, UNICEF Representative in India.